SOMERVILLE – The unmistakable, nostrils-flaring face under the sombrero belongs to Lee Van Cleef, captured in that last iconic gunfight in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on the side of a wall in the New Jersey town where he was born, and in Jack Ciattarelli’s case, the GOP candidate for governor’s hoping LG Kim Guadagno’s bad tomorrow and Phil Murphy and the Democrats ugly in time for November.
“I love this stuff,” said a beaming Ciattarelli, standing in front of a packed room in his campaign headquarters on Main street about a block away from that painting of Van Cleef.
“There is a pathway to victory,” added the candidate, outspent 2-1 by his chief Republican rival. “It’s not wide. It’s not deep. Our job is to exploit the opportunity, and after eight months, after everything we’ve done, we are poised for a victory tomorrow.”
The crowd clapped and cheered raucously.
State Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) was in the room. So was Somerset Freeholder Mark Caliguire, who’s running for the seat Ciattarelli’s giving up to run statewide. Bernards Mayor Carol Bianchi was present, and so were Somerset County GP Chairman Al Gaburo, and former somerset Chairman Dale Florio, Freeholder Peter Palmer and Clerk Brett Radi, Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher, and Bridgewater Councilman Matt Moench.
“There is only one poll that matters,” said Ciattarelli. “We’ve outworked our competition.”
Ciattarelli’s kept a frenetic work rate, hitting Somers Point, diners in Atlantic County and Guadagno’s home town of Monmouth beach all in the hours before June 6th Election Day.
Melinda and Jack Ciattarelli celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary yesterday between campaign events, and the candidate cracked that the gift he gave his bride came out of a crafts show where he was campaigning.
“He’s got momentum,” said Caliguire.
“He’s going to win, I’ve been saying that for two weeks,” Bateman told InsiderNJ. “the last time I was this excited for a gubernatorial campaign was when my father ran in 1977.”
Florio told the crowd, “If we don’t elect Jack Ciattarelli tomorrow, shame on us. Shame on us.”
A protege of the late Millicent Fenwick, Florio noted the Somerset GOP’s signature statewide primary wins in gubernatorial campaigns: the aforementioned late Ray Bateman in 1977, Christie todd Whitman in 1993.
“And now Jack,” said the former chair, through waves of very nearly soundless, grudging hand-wringing about the possible effectiveness of Guadagno’s “Jack it up” campaign to blunt her rival. But the crowd at the candidate’s campaign HQ tonight projected confidence, energy and high spirits.
Here at least, with the Ennio Morricone soundtrack reaching its climax on the eve of Judgement Day, Ciattarelli was indisputably The Good.